Friday, 21 February 2014

The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone Bye Review (Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore)

Officer Rick Grimes gets shot in the call of duty and goes into a coma. When he awakens in the hospital weeks later, he finds himself alone in a world where the zombie apocalypse has happened – and his family have disappeared. So begins Rick’s journey to find his family as, in a world where the end can come at any moment, he and the other survivors become the walking dead. 

It’s taken me a while to get around to actually reading the world’s most popular comic (The Walking Dead #115 was 2013’s bestselling single issue comic and the trades dominated the top 10 bestsellers list!) and it’s mostly because it feels very unoriginal. Robert Kirkman’s other creator-owned series, Thief of Thieves, reads like a shameless re-telling of Ocean’s 11 with generous helpings of Elmore Leonard (Out of Sight in particular). 

The Walking Dead feels like every zombie story ever plus some scenes are lifted wholesale from specific zombie movies. Rick waking up in the abandoned hospital is identical to the opening of 28 Days Later, while escaping the zombie hordes in the city is like that George Romero picture, oh what’s it called, oh right, ALL OF THEM! 

That said, despite all of that, I was drawn into the book. Kirkman knows that zombies are always second to the characters in every zombie story, and he focuses instead on building them up. The relationship between Lori and Shane is a brilliant touch that works perfectly in this scenario, bringing their situation and the trio of characters vividly to life. The zombie action is handled really well too as Rick and Glenn’s forays into doomed Atlanta are very exciting. 

Kirkman’s approach to the writing of this series is akin to classic horror from the 90s and beyond, incorporating schlocky horror movie jump scares, and artist Tony Moore’s preference for wide panels adds to the cinematic flavour of the comic. In this sense I find the comic somewhat annoying as it’s like it’s not using the medium to full effect, choosing instead to adopt a storyboard-type aspect that makes it feel like the comic was a natural stepping stone to the more lucrative medium of film (or, as it turned out, TV). 

I’m conflicted about this book. On the one hand, I’m interested in the characters and what they’ll do next. Parts of the book were exciting and enjoyable to read and I’m going to pick up Volume 2. Moore’s art isn’t bad but he’s not producing amazing panels. And on the other hand, there were parts that felt recycled, the art and writing were both serviceable at best, and on the whole Kirkman isn’t doing anything original with the zombie concept that we haven’t seen before. And, man, is this is a miserable comic! It’s an complete downer from start to finish (and what an insane finale!). 

It’s a decent start to the series but not an amazing comic by a long shot.

The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

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